In this post, we are going to learn how to work with text files using python. We will learn how to read and write text file using python. We will also see how to best work with a csv file from within python code.

Reading and writing text files

Let’s start with reading and writing text files.

When working with normal text files, you don’t need to import any python library. It’s handed natively in python.

Before you can read or write to a file, you have to open it. To open a file you use python’s open function.

The most simplest way to use the open function with a single argument i.e. the file name we want to open.

f = open(test.txt)

We receive a file handle that we are assigning to a variable f here.

We can use this file handle to do the file operations on this file.

For example, to read the contents of this file, you can use the function read like this.


However, the most common way to open a file handle is with two arguments – filename and the mode. Mode here refers to whether the want to open the file for reading or writing.

For example, if we just want to file to be opened in read mode, we can pass the argument r after the fil name like this.

file = open(test.txt, r)

Now let’s see how to write a file.

To write a file, you need to pass the mode argument as w

file = open(myfile.txt, w)

We can now use this file handle to write to the file like this.

file.write(I am writing this with python.)

If you want to write another line, you can just call write function again.

file.write(This is the second line.)

Once, we are done with the file, we can close the file with close method.


We saw the modes read and write that work separately.

There are few other modes, like a that stands for appending mode. And r+ mode that is for both read and write while working with a file.

More read file functions

We saw that we can read the contents using read method. It prints the complete contents of the file in one line of code.

However, there are lot of other ways to read the contents of the file.

Rreadline method gives the content line by line.

## Open the file.
file = open("contents.txt", "r")

# printing lines.

We can also get all the lines in a list by using method readlines.

# getting all lnes as a list

Using this technique, we can then can split the whole text content into separating words, like this,

# splitting the words
data = file.readlines()
for line in data:
    words = line.split()

Next, we look at how to best work with csv file from within python.

Reading csv files in Python

Best module to work with csv files Is called pandas.

To start using it, we first import it.

import pandas as pd

We have a csv file which we have saved in the same location.

We can import this csv file in python using pandas read csv method

data = pd.read_csv("data.csv")

Read csv method gives us a tabular data object that is called a dataframe. We are saving this dataframe in a variable data.

We can see the full data like this here.


Pandas has very useful methods that can be used to do lot of operations on this data now.

For example , we can use head method to get first few lines of this data. Default is 5.


tail gives us rows from bottom


info will give us nice useful information about this data like type of data in each columns, missing data, etc.


Columns method will gives us the names of columns in a list.


To get a single column’s data, we can just call it like this.


We can do some statistical operations on this data also.

For example to get the mean age for all records, we can do this.



In this article, we saw how to work with text files in Python. We saw how to read contents. We saw how to write to a text file. And we also saw how to read in data from csv files into Python.